Iraq's parliament approved Thursday a security pact with the United States that outlines the withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2011 and may mark a new turn toward Iraqi sovereignty. A reporter in Baghdad discusses the next steps with Judy Woodruff.
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Next, the Iraqi parliament approves a security agreement that outlines the mission of U.S. troops in that country. We get more from Alyssa Rubin of the New York Times. She spoke with me a short time ago from Baghdad.
Alissa, thank you for joining us. I know it's very late where you are. There are two parts to this agreement, and you wrote today this is a "watershed." What did you mean?
ALISSA RUBIN, New York Times:
Clearly, it's a very, very important agreement, both for Iraq and for the United States, in the sense that it really sets the course for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, for all U.S. troops, and that's an enormous step.
America invaded Iraq five years ago, almost five-and-a-half years ago now, and this really sets the course for withdrawal, and it looks like this will actually happen, which, of course, has been part of a major debate in the United States.
But also for Iraq, it's been an enormously controversial, the American presence here. Most Iraqis think of it as a continuing occupation.
And so, for them, this really signals a period of full sovereignty, and that was exactly what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said tonight. You know, this begins our period of full sovereignty. It's a very proud day for Iraq.
So that's a very important part of the agreement. A second part of it really spoke to internal Iraqi politics. To get the votes together, what the leadership and parliament had to do was to add a couple of other measures to the security agreement.
And there was also a requirement for a referendum on the security agreement, which is kind of a way both — for Iraqi parliament members to gain some political cover, some approbation from their constituents, but also a kind of check on anything going wrong with the agreement in the first months or any overstepping.
There's a feeling that this is a way — you know, if people were to reject it, well, that would be very complicated, and this will be a way of ensuring that the Americans abide by the pact and the Iraqis abide by the pact.